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February 28, 2003
Media Relations, LHSC
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 74772
Communications & Public Affairs
The University of Western Ontario
(519) 661-2111, ext. 85468
$3.3 million grant to help improve infertility treatments
(LONDON, Ontario) A team led by researchers at The University of Western Ontario, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and the Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI) has secured $3.3 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to help improve infertility treatments and reduce the incidence of multiple pregnancies.
Each year in Canada, more couples are seeking treatment for infertility through assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Because the success rate for these procedures can be relatively low, physicians often transfer more than one embryo per cycle of treatment in an attempt to increase the chance of pregnancy. However, this increases the risk of multiple pregnancies, which in turn can put mothers and babies at a much higher risk of complications.
"Our goal is to increase the efficiency of ART procedures so that only one embryo per cycle of treatment needs to be transferred," explains Tom Kennedy, Director of the research program and professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "This will reduce the high incidence of multiple pregnancies and ultimately reduce the risk to women and their children."
The eleven-member team, which includes scientists from Western and LHRI, physicians and a psychologist from LHSC, two scientists from The University of Toronto and one from the University of Calgary, will study various aspects of infertility treatment.
Specific projects will include identifying genetic markers that could help determine the best infertility treatment, and looking for ways to improve the quality of eggs, sperm and embryos used in ART procedures, and ultimately improving embryo implantation. The research will also explore couples' attitudes and understanding of infertility treatments, and examine the ethical issues involved.
A substantial portion of the clinical and bioethical aspects of the research will be conducted at the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Program at London Health Sciences Centre, in collaboration with ART programs in Toronto and Calgary.
Dr. Valter Feyles, Medical Director of the In Vitro Fertilization Program at LHSC says, "While in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies have helped countless couples, the goal of medicine is always to improve the care we provide to patients. This research will provide us with a greater understanding of the various aspects of infertility treatments, thereby helping us to efficiently increase the success rate for couples trying to conceive, to minimize complications and help the mother carry the baby to full-term."
"Our research team will be examining infertility from an integrated biomedical, clinical and psychosocial perspective," adds Kennedy. "We hope this research will provide a foundation for understanding of the physiology of sperm, egg, embryo and endometrial health, as well as develop a new understanding of ethical and decision-making factors that influence infertile couples."
The CIHR grant provides $669,808 per year over five years. It is the largest of three grants announced today by the CIHR Institute for Human Development, Child and Youth Health toward its "Healthy Gametes and Great Embryos" initiative.
The 11 scientists on the research team include: